As a tutu-clad little girl, I always imagined a night at the ballet as the height of sophistication -- a grand affair at which the city's most beautiful women, wearing gorgeous gowns and long white gloves, would hold opera glasses, pinkies up, and have dozens of handsome, eligible men vie for their affections at intermission.
Although I've maintained this daydream as a post-pubescent prima donna, for some reason, I've never actually made it to the Opera House to live out my childhood fantasy. OK, I admit I'm still a little upset about being passed over for the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, but, mostly, I'm extremely intimidated by the elite patrons. But as the ballet's audience development manager, Lynn Kalmar, told me over the phone, "The ballet crowd is a lot more diverse than people imagine." Thus comforted, I plan to go to "Fridays at San Francisco Ballet" this weekend.
The arts organization's little-known outreach program is designed especially for neophytes like me. The evening-long event starts with a cocktail party at the plush nightclub Soluna, with two hours of passed hors d'oeuvres and free wine and mixed drinks making the rounds. The happening scene also includes an ambient DJ, video projections, and, Kalmar promises, lots of "mixing and mingling." The jampacked fetes draw a mostly under-45 crowd, including plenty of people who've never stepped foot in a traditional art establishment. According to Kalmar, "The social element makes it more appealing to people who might not normally think of themselves as balletgoers."
Tickets are $42
After the Soluna party, you can walk a couple of blocks to the Opera House, where, tucked into seats in the orchestra -- or, if you're lucky, the more coveted "dress circle" -- you can watch the long-limbed ballerinas glide from jeté to pirouette with effortless grace. All this plus the aforementioned free food and drinks! I can hardly contain myself.
SFB's current repertory program is made up of three works, and for first-timers the highlight is sure to be Company B, a jazzy number by choreographer Paul Taylor set to the songs of 1940s songstresses the Andrews Sisters. Veering from jitterbugs to polkas and back again, the piece also serves as a "commentary on social dynamics," according to the ballet's Web site. The evening's entertainment includes Mark Morris' Maelstrom, the legendary choreographer's first work created for S.F. Ballet, and the world premiere of Stanton Welch's Falling, which press materials say "turns Mozart into motion."
But I, like many other budding ballet buffs, am mostly looking forward to dressing in my finest, quaffing wine, and eyeing all the bachelors at intermission. I haven't decided about the long white gloves yet.